Director Mamoru Hosoda has made some wonderful anime films.
Hosoda is sometimes described as “the new Hayao Miyazaki.” For one thing, he is younger than Miyazaki (born on Sept. 19, 1967, as opposed to 1941 for Miyazaki). Like Miyazaki, Hosoda also makes use of “magical realism” — the idea that magic and fantasy can intermingle with modern, real-life scenarios.
In addition, Miyazaki also inspired Hosoda to become an animator.
Let’s take a look at some of Hosoda’s best films — as picked by both professional film reviewers; and you, the anime film-watching audience.
At first, Hosoda mostly directed anime shorts for Toei Animation — including a couple of Digimon short films which were included in Digimon: The Movie (2000).
In 2001, Studio Ghibli announced that Hosoda would direct Howl’s Moving Castle. However, he and Ghibli parted ways because of creative differences. (Sources seem to be politely euphemistic about the exact circumstances.)
After his Ghibli experience, Hosoda directed a full-length One Piece film, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island (2005). But his real breakout film was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006).
Since then, Hosoda has made several really good anime feature films — including one which was nominated for an Oscar. In 2011, Hosoda started his own studio — Studio Chizu.
List of the Top 5 Mamoru Hosoda Anime, by Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer Review Score
To be honest, “the best” is somewhat subjective. And there are a lot of ways to decide. For the sake of this article, we’ve chosen to use the generally reliable Rotten Tomatoes website.
So, here’s what the Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer had to say about Hosoda in September 2023:
- Wolf Children
- The Boy and the Beast
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Note that the Tomatometer only measures reviews by professional critics. If we go by audience score, the same five films will show up, but in slightly different order.
Top 5 Mamoru Hosoda Anime Films
1. Belle (2021)
Belle is Hosoda’s most recent film (as of 2023). Although the film is inspired by the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, it also features the very modern, contemporary concept of the internet idol.
The title character, Belle, is the online, virtual reality avatar persona of ordinary teenage schoolgirl Suzu. Belle is a singing sensation, while her real-life counterpart struggles with trauma, which holds her back.
The plot involves a fight over either unmasking or protecting online identities. But underneath that is an online love story.
- Netflix (Singapore) has Belle. You will need a good VPN if the movie is geo-locked in your area.
- Belle can also be bought or rented at Apple TV.
- You can also get it at Amazon Prime Video.
- YouTube also has Belle.
2. Wolf Children (2012)
In Wolf Children, a single mother, Hana, struggles to raise two half-wolf children, Ame and Yuki. At the beginning of the story, Hana fell in love with a man who turned out to be a werewolf. He dies, leaving behind Hana and her two kids.
The movie covers the young family for more than a decade. Hana’s kids go to school, where they must hide their wolf nature to avoid revealing their secret.
In some ways, Wolf Children can be seen as a metaphor for mixed-race, or biracial people. The children can choose to live as humans, or in nature as wolves.
It also made JapanBound’s list of the eight saddest anime movies.
- Wolf Children is available at Crunchyroll. If Crunchyroll is geo-locked where you are, you may need a good VPN, such as NordVPN to watch it.
- Google Play also has the movie.
3. Mirai (2018)
Mirai was the first Hosoda film that I saw in a theater. It’s a cute, family-friendly film with a time-traveling theme. Mirai was also Hosoda’s first Oscar nominee.
The story is told from the point of view of Kun, an imaginative little boy who is not happy about getting a sister, Mirai. Kun’s adventures are fun and creative. The movie blurs the line between what’s real and what’s happening in Kun’s imagination.
4. The Boy and the Beast (2015)
A human boy, Ren, becomes the disciple of a bakemono (a sort of beast yokai from Japanese mythology) in The Boy and the Beast.
The bakemono, Kumatetsu, could potentially become the next leader of the Beast Kingdom — if he can defeat his rival in a duel. He trains Ren, who goes by the nickname Kyuta while in the beast realm.
Kyuta/ Ren eventually finds a way to return to the human realm. Like in Wolf Children, Ren can choose between the human and the beast worlds. The story also follows Kumatetsu’s personal growth as his relationship with Kyuta changes him.
5. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a time-traveling, romantic science-fiction story.
At the beginning of the film, high school girl Makoto gains the power to “leap” backwards in time. This leaping ability allows her to fix embarrassing events. At one point, it even saves her life.
Makoto quickly learns not to abuse this power, as changing things has unintended consequences. However, some changes are too tempting not to make, and she erases a love confession from her friend Chiaki.
Unfortunately, this just leads to more romantic problems. And the spoiler ending is how the film made it onto our list of eight sad romance anime.
- Crunchyroll has The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
- You can also watch The Girl Who Leapt Through Time at Apple TV.
How to Watch Anime (on Crunchyroll) in Geo-Restricted Countries via VPN
This method works on both desktop PCs and mobile phones or tablets.
- Purchase (or start a free trial) of a VPN. NordVPN works for this purpose.
- In the settings, choose the United States or Canada (Crunchyroll serves those regions)
- Fire up the VPN
- Once you’re connected, navigate to Crunchyroll (or whatever streaming app you’re using)
- Search the anime name in the search bar and you should see it pop up.
Enjoy! Please note that if your Netflix library doesn’t update to reflect the country you selected in your VPN, you may have to clear the Netflix cache first and try again. This may be the same for other streaming platforms as well.
To do this, go to settings -> apps -> Netflix -> clear cache.
These Mamoru Hosoda anime films are all worth watching. All of them are available on more than one legal, licensed service. However, don’t let the Tomato score sway you one way or another. Sometimes critics can be dead wrong or have way different opinions than the general audience. Read the synopses and choose whichever film appeals most to you!